Wimbledon 2022: Simona Halep & Ons Jabeur among semi-finalists

By Amy LofthouseBBC Sport
Ons Jabeur, Tatjana Maria, Elena Rybakina and Simona Halep
Of the Wimbledon semi-finalists, only Simona Halep (right) has won a Grand Slam title
Wimbledon 2022 on the BBC
Venue: All England Club Dates: 27 June-10 July
Coverage: Live across BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app.

There will be at least one first-time Grand Slam finalist at Wimbledon this year following the women's semi-finals on Thursday.

Third seed Ons Jabeur is the highest-ranked player left in the draw and is bidding to become the first Arab to reach a major final.

She will play good friend Tatjana Maria, who returned to the tour a year ago after having her second daughter, from 13:30 BST on Centre Court.

That will be followed by Simona Halep, the 2019 winner and only former Grand Slam champion left standing in the women's draw, against Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina.

Halep has yet to drop a set at this year's tournament and is one of the favourites for the title alongside Tunisia's Jabeur.

However, their opponents have claimed big wins at Wimbledon. Maria beat fifth seed Maria Sakkari in the third round while Rybakina beat former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in the early rounds.

'What Ons brings to our sport is great'

Jabeur is the highest-ranked player left in the women's draw and is making her maiden appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final.

A consistently entertaining player who uses slices and drop shots to wrong-foot her opponents, Jabeur has moved steadily up the rankings over the past few years.

She won her biggest title at Madrid in March and has dropped just one set on her way to the last four at SW19.

"Her personality and what she brings to our sport is great," former world number one Kim Clijsters told BBC Sport.

"Ons has always been very talented but I think she's added a maturity to her game and a belief that is so much fun to watch.

Jabeur is good friends with Maria, who she calls her "barbecue buddy," and has spent time with her family during the Championships.

"I was joking with [Maria's eldest daughter] Charlotte - I was telling her, 'are you going to support me or your mum?'," she said.

"I'm trying to turn all the kids to my side. I'm really happy for her that she's getting what she deserves.

"It's going to be a great match between us, a lot of respect, for sure."

Australian icon Evonne Goolagong Cawley is the only mother to win Wimbledon in the Open Era, having lifted the title in 1980 three years after giving birth to her daughter.

Maria's family have been with her throughout the Championships and she takes Charlotte to a tennis lesson every morning in an attempt to keep things as normal as possible.

"What Maria's been able to achieve as a mother of two, coming back only a year after giving birth, that is extraordinary in itself," former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli told BBC Sport.

"She might not win the Championships but it's a massive round of applause and a lot of appreciation for her. Her story is beautiful."

Prior to this week, Maria's best run in the singles at a Grand Slam was reaching the Wimbledon third round in 2015 and she was ranked outside the top 250 as early as March, having returned from maternity leave last July.

"I guess there are a lot of people who never believed I would come back," Maria said.

"It's a little bit my life to show everybody that I'm still here and I'm a fighter, and I keep going and I keep dreaming."

Halep has 'fire in the eyes' again

Halep still describe her victory over Serena Williams in the 2019 final as "the perfect match of my life" after she dismantled the seven-time champion in just 56 minutes.

With the tournament cancelled in 2020, Halep was unable to defend her title a year later after picking up a calf injury and has since said she considered retiring after losing her love for the game.

However, with a new coach in Patrick Mouratoglou, who worked with Williams for 10 years, the Romanian says she has rekindled her joy for tennis.

"He sent me somehow this confidence, and I started to believe in myself again that I have that chance to be a good player again," Halep said.

"He thinks that everything is possible. So this helps me to trust a lot in what I'm doing."

Former Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska said she had been impressed by Halep, adding: "You can see fire in her eye again. She really wants to do it again."

Her opponent Rybakina is the first player representing Kazakhstan to reach the last four at Wimbledon.

Born in Russia, she has represented Kazakhstan since 2018, meaning she was able to compete at the All England Club this year despite the ban on players from Russia and Belarus.

The 17th seed called for peace in her news conference following her quarter-final victory over Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic.

"I just want the war to end as soon as possible and peace," she said.

"I was born in Russia, but of course I am representing Kazakhstan. It's already a long journey for me.

"I'm feeling just the support of the people and also bringing some results which are very good for the sport in Kazakhstan."

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